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Council criticised for childminder enforcement

Parents in Upper Brailes are have criticised Stratford District Council for pursuing heavy-handed enforcement action against a popular childminder in the village.

The childminding business, called Starry Skies and Lullabies, has recently relocated from one home in the village to another, with the owners building a small garden room to the rear of the property for personal and business use.

According to the Ofsted registered company, they were assured by the planning department at the district council that planning permission was not needed for the structure to be used as part of the business and that permission would only be needed if Starry Skies was a nursery- which it is not.

Stratford District Council
Stratford District Council

However following a complaint, the enforcement department has now demanded the business apply for formal change of use planning permission.

Starry Skies say that there is no legal reason why it should have to apply for change of use and reiterated that it is a childminding business and not a nursery.

The business has now had to let go two workers.

Parent Liz Hession, whose children attend Starry Skies and Lullabies, said: “There were nine families that had children at Starry Skies and because of this action there are only my two there now, it’s a huge upheaval for children and parents who have had to find new childminders.

“What the council is essentially saying is that any childminder who converts a garage or builds a garden room which may be used for childminding now has to apply for change of use.

“We just don’t know why they are taking this action, this is a really, really good childminder but because of all this two people have lost their jobs and children are no longer able to be with their friends.”

Liz added that there are many other childminders in the area operating in exactly the same way as Starry Skies and Lullabies, that have not been told to apply for change of use at their properties.

Offering her support to the business district councillor Jo Barker, said: “The only thing I can say is this enforcement action is just weird, when I first heard this was happening I just thought someone had made a silly mistake. Anyone who has had children knows how hard it can be to juggle things so childminding businesses like Starry Skies are vitally important.”

She added that she would support the business in whatever way she could.

The Herald approached Stratford District Council for a comment on the enforcement action but were told that because this is a live case, the authority was unable to provide a statement.

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